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15.01.2009 Feature Article

'Abrokyire' Palaver: In American politics who is without blemish?

'Abrokyire' Palaver: In American politics who is without blemish?
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These are interesting times both in the United States and in Ghana. This is because both countries have just organized successful and both—winners of the presidential elections—have the arduous task of making political appointments. Suddenly, there are tons of congratulatory messages from all manner of people and organizations which tend to send the subtle message of “remember me in thy kingdom”.

In the United States, President-elect Obama appeared to have no problem coming up with nominations for certain offices. These nominees were largely hailed by the hundreds of political analysts who, for a moment, sounded like the country was occupied by angelic hosts singing alleluia to the King of kings.

Just as in the days of Ezekiel there suddenly appears a whole valley not of dry bones or should I say skeletons being uncovered from the political closets of some of these appointees.

Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff – described by the Washington Post as being “extremely comfortable with profanity”, an attribute which reportedly made Nancy Pelosi remark that the economic stimulus plan could be paid for if we "put a quarter in a jar every time Rahm uses a swear word."

Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State – accused of possible conflict of interest in dealing with some foreign nations because of her husband's charitable organization and questions about who are funding his work

Bill Richardson, Secretary of Commerce – threw in the towel following investigations involving a pay-for-play deal in his state of New Mexico.

Attorney General, Eric Holder – a former deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration; he will have to answer for his involvement in the 'last minute Kufuor-like' pardon granted by President Clinton to a financier of the Democratic Party, Mark Rich who had been charged with federal tax evasion. There are also concerns about his involvement in a case involving an Elian Gonzalez and his work with a law firm.

Deputy Defense Secretary, William Lynn – contrary to expectations Obama nominated a lobbyist for one of the biggest defense contracting companies to serve as deputy to Robert Gates. Lynn is senior vice president of the company, Raytheon, which is said to have billions of dollars in contracts of the defense department and will be involved in the budget and acquisitions and the day-to-day administration of the defense department.

CIA Director, Leon Panetta – his skeleton is that he lacks the experience necessary for a specialized position as the head of an intelligence agency

Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary- for someone who will be responsible for overseeing the IRS he has to contend with answering how he failed to pay about $42,700 in back taxes and penalties and only paying more than half of the amount after he learnt that he was being considered for the position. He is also accused of keeping his former housekeeper even when her immigration status elapsed.

Perhaps, the most interesting twist given to all of these concerns is the alleged attempt by the governor of Illinois, Obama's home state to sell off the senate seat which became vacant as a result of Obama's election. This probably has been the most embarrassing for the newly-elected President because it involves his home state and his previously held seat.

In spite of these concerns, however, the ever-defiant Governor Rod Blagojevich has gone ahead to appoint Roland Burris for that position.

This is one country that values record-keeping and no matter how long ago it takes, your sins will definitely catch up with you one day. Many people have fallen from grace because of acts they indulged in years ago. This is what makes America the leveler of men. From Chief Executive Officers, Senators, Mayors and Governors at best a near clean sheet or at worst a public admission of wrongdoing and an apology is the only way to go.

The irony of this strong system of accountability is that some people still get to slip through the system and Governor Blagojevich may yet be one of them especially in a country where political appointments understand the language of quid pro quo or “something for something”.

It appears that questions would keep flying about appointees, but the truth is that, most of them will scale through the congressional hearings. The question, therefore, is no longer who is without blemish but whose blemish can be politically tolerated?

Credit: Dot Asare-Kumah [[email protected]]

Dorothy Asare-Kumah
Dorothy Asare-Kumah, © 2009

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: DorothyAsareKumah

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